Copyright © Janice Tracy, Mississippi Memories

Sunday, February 12, 2012

Y-DNA Testing - Halotype Results and Unanswered Questions

Well, the DNA testing results are in.  Actually, the results have been available since late December, but I am just now getting around to writing about what the findings.  The test kit itself was uncomplicated, but the results were delayed twice.  The delays were good, though, since each one represented the lab's dedicated efforts to ensure reliable results.  If I may backtrack for a moment here, DNA testing seemed to be the last resort for me in determining the name of my fourth paternal grandfather, Samuel Porter's father. There were too many Porter men in South Carolina and in Mississippi during the late 1700s and early 1800s to make a definitive match.  So, I joined  the World Family Tree's Porter Surname Project and enlisted the help of a Porter male family member in providing a cheek swab sample for a Y-DNA test.  I chose the test that would yield 37 markers and provide halotype information. If you are unfamiliar with genealogical DNA testing and are wondering what is a "marker" and why one would be interested in 37 (and testing more more than 37 is available), an explanation can be found here.  Now if you are also wanting to know what "halotype" means and why this information is important to genealogical DNA research, an explanation is provided here

The individual who provided the DNA sample for my Porter research was a first cousin, twice removed, and the only living male child or grandchild of my paternal great-grandfather, John James Porter, his father, James M. Porter, and his father, Samuel Porter.  Samuel Porter was born circa 1799 in South Carolina and came to the Mississippi Territory in the early 1800s.  In early 1825, Samuel Porter married Mary Middleton in Franklin County, Mississippi, before moving a few years later to Madison and Attala Counties after the Treaty of Dancing Rabbit Creek opened up land there in 1832.  According to a copy of their marriage certificate, parents' names for neither Samuel nor Mary appear on the document. Although DNA testing has determined that my Samuel Porter is related to John Porter, who lived in the early 1600s in Virginia and to his descendants, Edward Sanders Porter, Elisha Jeter Porter, Hancock Porter, and Stark(s) Porter, I still do not know the name of Samuel's father. There were other male Porter family members living in Franklin County, Mississippi in the early 1800s, including John, Landlot, and James, but I have been unable to find Samuel's direct connection to any of these three men. 

Although Y-DNA testing did not yield the initial results I sought, it did produce a finding that confirms some questions about my paternal grandmother's family that I have had since I was very young.  My father's male family members share the J1 Halotype, indicating they have ancestry that links them to countries in and around the Fertile Crescent . My questions began when I was a young student studying geography and history.  Wanting to know where my own family originated, I asked my grandmother about her heritage and her family's origins.  I remember her reply when she said that "Mama's people were Black Dutch and Papa's people were Moors from South Carolina."  As I grew older, I often recalled her words and wanted to know more about her Porter family's heritage.  There was something unusual about these male Porter family members - besides the fact that most of them were quite tall, they exhibited very distinct facial features, and their skin color was what some might call "swarthy."  When I was older, I wondered even more about the Porter family's ethnicity, as I compared the looks of my own father, and my brothers as they grew older, to his mother's relatives. As I matured and learned more about various cultural, religious, and ethnic traditions, I often wondered if my grandmother's insistence that my siblings and I not drink milk when we ate fish might indicate that we had a Jewish ancestry. Now, thanks to Y-DNA testing results that show a J1 Halotype finding, my questions have been answered. 

For more information about Halotypes, including the J1 Halotype, read here.

Friday, February 10, 2012

Genealogy and DNA Testing

DNA testing is one of many tools in the family researcher's toolbox today, and it is absolutely a hot topic of conversation within the genealogy community. Thanks to a plethora of crime shows on television, most of us know how DNA works.  But genealogy testing goes beyond what is done on tissue and body fluid samples during a crime scene investigation. DNA results obtained from one tiny cheek swab can assist a researcher in finding a connection to an individual's ancestor as well as the part of the world in which the family originated.  Sounds so easy, doesn't it?  Although the test itself is a simple one, the results are much more complicated.  More about DNA testing, the process and the results, can be found here. Several months ago, after searching for years for some of my own paternal ancestors, I decided to join one of the surname projects sponsored by  Watch here for more posts that chronicle a quest for the name of a paternal ancestor that began with a simple cheek swab sample from a male relative and the Y-DNA results from a lab in Houston, Texas.